Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Basking in the Sun

Sceloporus occidentalis
Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
Los Angeles County, California
March 20th, 2010

I found this little western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) basking in the sun during a recent outing to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. He was nice enough to sit and pose for a few pictures before scrambling out of sight into the undergrowth. These are one of my favorite native reptiles, and I love to watch them and capture them on film.

Not only are the western fence lizards beautiful to look at and fun to watch, they are beneficial to the ecosystem as well. In areas with a population of western fence lizards, the incidence of Lyme Disease is significantly lower than in areas without these little reptiles. Apparently the lizard's blood contains a protein which kills the spirochete bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that causes Lyme Disease. 

The Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve is located just North of the 101 Freeway and West of the 405 Freeway. The  225 acre park is home to a wide variety of wildlife including California ground squirrels, cottontails, coyotes, California red-legged frogs, Pacific treefrogs, western fence lizards, side-blotched lizards, and over 200 visiting (migrating) and resident species of birds. There is a path that winds through the reserve with several viewing areas that overlook the lake. When visiting please stay on the path and leave your pets at home. The native scrub land is beautiful, but can also be fragile if not taken care of. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

A View from the Top

A Unique View of the Rainforest
La Selva Biological Field Station, Costa Rica
July 14th, 2009

This photograph was taken from atop a research tower at the OTS La Selva Field Station. The total height of the tower is just over 40 meters. On a clear day at the top, you can see the chain of volcanoes that run like a spine down the center of the country to the west, and the Caribbean to the east.  It was partly cloudy on the day I climbed the tower, so most of the view was obstructed, but what I did see was amazing. After climbing to the top of this tower, I climbed part way down and crossed a bridge to the second tower. From here, I made my way down to the ground. I will say the whole experience was a little tense, but well worth it. I would not have wanted to miss out on this experience; one that few visitors get to have. 

The towers themselves are part of a long term project to study the Carbon Cycle and climate change. The towers I climbed are only two of several scattered throughout the forest. Our guide was telling my group that there are plans to add additional towers to this site and monitoring equipment that will make it possible to collect data remotely. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Lonely Trail at Deukmejian Wilderness Park

La Mesnager Loop Trail
Deukmejian Wilderness Park, California
May 31st, 2009

Deukmejian Wilderness Park is one of my favorite places to hike in Glendale, California. I discovered this park about four years ago when I purchased the book Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles County by Jerry Schad. The La Mesnager Loop Trail is a 1.4 mile (2.2 km) hike with only a 420 foot change in elevation. It is easy to maneuver in a sturdy pair of cross-trainers but I prefer a pair of light boots. As you reach the top of the mountain make sure to take a quick 50 yard side trip up the La Mesnager Lookout Trail. On a clear day from the lookout you can see Catalina Island. Once back on the main trail, you might want to veer off once again and take the steep (1195 ft change in elevation) Rim of the Valley Trail, this trail will take you up the mountain to the Haines Canyon Road. I usually double-back down the trail and return to the La Mesnager Loop Trail. Another option is to stay on the La Mesnager Loop Trail and take the short jaunt the end of Dunsmore Canyon, before finishing your hike.

The photograph above was taken in the Spring of 2009 just three months before the devastating Station Fire. Unfortunately Deukmejian Wilderness Park was burned as part of the effort to save the community surrounding the 704 acre park. The park itself is closed for the time being, and hopefully it will re-open again in the near future. If you would like to see images of the park after the controlled burn, including one taken in almost the exact location of my photograph you can click here: City of Glendale: Community Services and Parks.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Night Walk Along the Camino Cantarana

Scinax boulengeri
La Selva Biological Field Station, Costa Rica
July 15th, 2009

This Boulenger's Snouted Treefrog was photographed along the boardwalk of the Camino Cantarana at the OTS La Selva field station. The Cantarana (frog song) trail was one of my favorite night spots during my trip to Costa Rica. The trailhead was only a few meters from the academic building and we would often take a quick trip down to the boardwalk before heading on the one kilometer hike back to the Cabinas. At night the Cantarana trail is alive with the sound of frogs calling and snakes hunting, every night was an adventure with new organisms to observe and photograph.